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State of the Region Report - 2016

Introduction

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) adopted a Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) in 2011.  In 2012, the RDNO, with the support of EcoPlan International, the University of British Columbia and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, began work on a program to monitor and evaluate the North Okanagan RGS. The resulting monitoring and evaluation framework included both quantitative and qualitative indicators selected to track the implementation of the RGS and assess its effect on quality of life in the North Okanagan.  The development of this framework was recognized by the Planning Institute of BC and awarded a gold medal for Excellence in Planning Practice in 2014.

Without a strong monitoring and evaluation component it is difficult to know whether or not implementation of the RGS is having the effect it was developed for.  Monitoring the impacts of the RGS is not only informative, it is required under Section 452 of the Local Government Act, which states that a regional district that has adopted an RGS must

a) establish a program to monitor its implementation and the progress made towards its objectives and actions; and
b) prepare an annual report on that implementation and progress.

In 2015, with the 5-year anniversary of the RGS approaching, RDNO initiated the first 5-year review of the Regional Growth Strategy.  The Regional District of North Okanagan acknowledges the support of the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia which has enabled RDNO to work together with EcoPlan on this initiative to prepare the 2016 State of the Region Report.  One of the first steps was to consider the monitoring and evaluation framework developed in 2012-13 and to update the framework as necessary to reflect the current context of the region.  An updated list of indicators and measures, reflecting the Regional Growth Strategy goals, forms the basis of the State of the Region Report and corresponds to the following Policy Areas of the RGS: 

  • Policy Area 1: Urban Containment,
  • Policy Area 2: Agriculture and Food Systems,
  • Policy Area 3: Water Stewardship,
  • Policy Area 4: Environment1,
  • Policy Area 5: Economic Development,
  • Policy Area 6: Transportation and Infrastructure, and
  • Policy Area 7: Housing
  • Policy Area 8Governance and Service Delivery is an ongoing administrative and political process which oversees both day-to-day functions of local government and long range planning initiatives. In this regard, this aspect of the Regional Growth Strategy is difficult to measure through the use of indicators. In the absence of indicators and “hard data”, this section of the State of the Region Report speaks to the local government partnerships that comprise our Regional District and highlights some of the many shared responsibilities which are administered by our elected representatives.

1 For the purposes of this report, Policy Area 4: Environment represents a combination of the original RGS Policy Area 4: Environment and Natural Lands, and RGS Policy Area 9: Energy and Emissions, given the inherent linkages between these topics.

Results from a 2013 Quality of Life Survey, undertaken by RDNO as part of the RGS monitoring and evaluation program, are referenced in the State of the Region Report and provide valuable insight into the priorities and opinions of North Okanagan residents as they pertain to the Policy Areas of the RGS.  Overall, the survey respondents indicated that quality of life within the North Okanagan; as a place to live, play, raise a family, or retire; was rated between ‘good’ and ‘very good’.  Employment, however, was one topic highlighted by survey respondents as an area of concern.

The strengths and challenges facing North Okanagan communities as revealed through this State of the Region Report will help to guide upcoming stages of the RGS 5-Year Review as it proceeds in 2017.

The following lists the indicators utilized in the State of the Region Report and provides an overview of what they reveal in relation to each Policy Area.

Conclusion

In 2015, the Regional District of North Okanagan initiated the first 5-year review of the Regional Growth Strategy. One of the first steps in the review process was to revisit and update the RGS Monitoring and Evaluation framework as a means to track the implementation of the RGS.  A comprehensive list of indicators was developed and data was gathered from a broad range of sources as a means to measure progress within the RGS policy areas.  Both baseline data and trends were identified, analyzed, and presented in a series of infographics resulting in a user-friendly State of the Region Report that has applicability beyond regional planning. The findings of this report will help to define next steps in the RGS 5-year review.

The State of the Region Report reveals both successes and challenges facing North Okanagan communities.  The North Okanagan is doing well at focusing the majority of new development within growth areas identified in the RGS; in other words, areas serviced with community sewer and water infrastructure.  In addition, good progress is also being achieved in the areas of farm diversity and profitability, water quality and monitoring, waste reduction, and construction investment as revealed through Building Permit values.
In terms of challenges, Quality of Life Survey results and economic indicators suggest that the North Okanagan is still recovering in the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008.  In this regard, it is not surprising that employment remains a significant concern of North Okanagan residents. Efforts, such as implementation of the Employment Lands Action Plan aim to improve the North Okanagan’s economic prospects and should be monitored to measure progress. A declining stock of housing available for sale and rent may also contribute to the challenges facing local households.

Looking ahead, given the timing of the release of Canada Census statistics, consideration should be given to initiating the next RGS 5-year review in 2022 in order to take advantage of 2021 Census data.  Whereas this State of the Region Report was reliant on 2011 Census data, with the release of 2016 Census information next year, the findings of this report could be updated in in 2017-18 to reflect more recent statistics.  In addition, North Okanagan local government partners should ensure procedures are in place to collect local (non-Census) data corresponding to the indicators utilized in this State of the Region Report to facilitate future updates and monitoring of progress.

The development and updating of the indicators and measures which form the basis of the State of the Region Report, are key to monitoring and evaluating RGS implementation, which is a legislative requirement under Section 452 of the Local Government Act. The Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia assisted the Regional District in this initiative through their generous financial support and EcoPlan International provided analytical and creative expertise to assist in the development of an engaging, creative approach to RGS Monitoring and Evaluation. The results of the State of the Region Report are intended to be shared with local governments, service agencies, community organizations and the public for information and for consideration within future planning processes.